A program designed by Jacksonville University management professor Donald Horner, currently on sabbatical and working as Mayor Alvin Brown’s education commissioner, is helping local students navigate the complex world of college financial aid.
Mayor Brown’s College Student Aid Workshops launched March 31 at Andrew Jackson High School, the first of seven free workshops to assist students with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Remaining sessions will be over the next few weeks at high schools across the city.
The program was modeled on other cities’ efforts but goes a step beyond, Horner said.
“It is more robust in that we offer a one-stop, full service to college-bound students and their parents for completing the FAFSA – 100 percent of it – while the students and parents wait.”
With the help of JU Director of Financial Aid Breanne Simkin and similar colleagues at UNF, EWC and FSCJ, the program trained and certified about 30 volunteers from the Indo-U.S. Chamber of Commerce of Northeast Florida to complete the FAFSA form online.
“By helping more people go to college, we are setting the foundation for a more educated community to help Jacksonville thrive in the 21st Century global economy,” Brown said in a news release from City Hall. “This is a great example of public-private partnership to help young people cross the threshold to achieve a higher education. We grow stronger as a city one student at a time.”
Horner, on a two-year sabbatical as director of the Davis Leadership Center at JU, is glad to have a hand in helping students make their way through the financial aid process.
“The FAFSA form is a bear – 30 pages made 'simpler' with about 80 pages of directions,” he said. “We're happy to offer this service for all students at geographically dispersed locations throughout the city.”
Dr. Pramod Jain, president of the Indo-U.S. Chamber, said his members are proud to be part of this first-time initiative, and look forward to helping students one-on-one at upcoming workshops.
“The students will get an opportunity to essentially tap financial aid. That is one of the key determinants to see if they afford college,” he said in the City Hall release.
The next FAFSA workshop is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 21 at Mandarin High School.